News / Africa

Pro-Ouattara Fighters Capture Ivorian Capital, Gbagbo Delays Address

Members of Pro-Ouattara forces in Duekoue, western Ivory Coast,  March 29, 2011
Members of Pro-Ouattara forces in Duekoue, western Ivory Coast, March 29, 2011


Fighters backing the internationally-recognized winner of Ivory Coast's presidential election have taken control of the capital. The country's incumbent president has postponed a nationwide address as his army tries to recruit more troops.

Fighters supporting Ivory Coast's internationally-recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, have captured the political capital Yamoussoukro and are making gains in the southern port of San Pedro.

They are driving back government troops still loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo after a week of fighting near the Liberian border. Gbagbo's chief of staff General Philippe Mangou says the army is looking to recruit more fighters to defend Ivorian sovereignty.

As months of failed mediation to resolve this political crisis erupt into open combat, Gbagbo is calling for a cease-fire. Ouattara says all peaceful routes for his rival to admit electoral defeat have been exhausted.

Watch a related report by Mariama Diallo

Earlier this week, Ouattara rejected the African Union's choice of a mediator, saying former Cape Verde foreign minister Jose Brito is too close to Gbagbo. Gbagbo's government accepted the choice and said it plans to take part in talks in Ethiopia next week.

Affoussy Bamba is a spokeswoman for the Force Nouvelles party which backs Ouattara.

Bamba says Gbagbo has had many opportunities for discussion, but he has never respected the conclusions of that mediation. She told VOA's French to Africa service that the Ouattara government sees no point in negotiating again with the African Union when Gbagbo did not respect the last mediation.

Gbagbo was scheduled to address the nation late Wednesday, but his spokesman appeared on national television instead.

Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Mello says the president is following the situation in the country closely and has decided to delay his address to the nation. State-run television's evening news then closed with a patriotic "Ode to Ivory Coast" after making no mention of the fall of Yamoussoukro.

While he has lost control of the political capital, Gbagbo and his allies continue to run most of the commercial capital Abidjan, where Gbagbo supporters are increasingly targeting United Nations peacekeepers because they say those troops are helping pro-Ouattara fighters.

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